Press Conference Designating Stevie Wonder Messenger of Peace

3 December 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference Designating Stevie Wonder United Nations Messenger of Peace

Stevie Wonder, the popular singer and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, promised to use his creative talents in support of the United Nations mission and persons with disabilities during a press conference at Headquarters today.

“I’ll sing songs, speak on it and sing about it,” he said, after a ceremony during which he was designated a United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on persons with disabilities.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explained that Messengers of Peace worked to expand the public’s understanding of the Organization’s effort to improve people’s lives.  He described Mr. Wonder as a “musical genius” and “a great humanitarian”, who worked tirelessly to create better lives for disabled children and their families. 

“All of us at the United Nations look forward to working with Stevie Wonder,” the Secretary-General said.  Quoting a lyric, he added that he hoped that Mr. Wonder would help the Organization “reach the highest ground”. Staying on that note, he said that one of Mr. Wonder’s songs -– “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” -– provided the perfect inspirational soundtrack for the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

United States Ambassador Susan Rice, also at the Press Conference moderated by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka, pointed out that one in 10 people in the world were disabled; that unemployment and poverty were higher among those with disabilities and that, in the developing world, 90 per cent of children with disabilities did not attend school.  “It is not just unjust,” said Ms. Rice, “it hinders development and corrodes society”. 

Reiterating a commitment to protect the world’s estimated 650 million people with disabilities and to promote their rights, she noted that, in July, the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a landmark agreement that asserts their equal rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law.  She also expressed hope that next year’s summit on the Millennium Development Goals would be an opportunity to examine specific challenges for persons with disabilities so that equitable development could be achieved for all.

Speaking after her introduction, Mr. Wonder said he was honoured by the United Nations appointment and said he wanted to expand the possibilities for the disabled –- a challenge he likened to writing music.  And as the writer of many hit songs, he felt confident enough to say, “We’re going to win on this one, too”.

During the ensuing question-and-answer session, Mr. Wonder said that he would work towards making technologies that helped the needs of the blind and disabled become more affordable. Plus, travel should also be accessible to all.  “Everyone should be able to travel everywhere,” he said. “We can’t just talk about it –- we got to do about it.”

To a question about how to fight United Nations fatigue, especially in the American media, Mr. Wonder praised the Organization and said that he had a lot of respect for those who committed themselves to making the world a better place.  One reporter challenged Mr. Wonder to write a song in support of the Organization’s work.  The songwriter replied that he liked challenges and that he would “do what I gotta do”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.